Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Slouching Toward Jerusalem

"They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them.  They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid."  Mark 10:32

Jesus had withdrawn far to the north with his disciples, to the territory of Tyre and Sidon, to avoid crowds.  There he taught his disciples intensively, repeatedly explaining to them what would happen and what would be expected of them.  As the time for the Passover festival approached, he judged them ready, and headed south, toward Jerusalem.

They knew the journey was coming, and yet they followed in fear.  I understand that.  There are places I don't want to go, and things I don't want to do, even though I know they are necessary.  I stall and drag my feet.  I look for excuses.

I want to follow Jesus.  I want to be a faithful disciple.  But I shrink in the face of real danger, and I know that real discipleship may involve danger.  Or at the very least, disapproval by people whose good opinions I crave.

But there is the road.  Jesus will not allow for straggling or indecision.  He calls, and then just heads out, leaving us amazed and not a little afraid of the implications.  Lord, help me, I want to follow.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tim Mitchell sermon at Sussex United Methodist Church: "Knots"

Here is Tim Mitchell's sermon from Scout Sunday last week.

Friday, March 7, 2014

"Happy Lent"?

Every year, several of the churches in our town gather together for joint worship services on Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  We also share an Easter Sunrise service on a mountaintop at a nearby camp.  Although I always enjoy sharing worship all these local congregations and my clergy friends, the special Lenten worship services have always maintained an  understandably serious, contemplative tone. 

It was somewhat surprising, then, to hear one of my clergy colleagues greeting departing worshippers by exclaiming, "Happy Lent!"   Now we always greet each other by saying "Merry Christmas!" at Christmas and "Happy Easter!" at Easter."  But is there a normal greeting for the beginning of Lent?  I don't really remember ever having heard one.  And, in all events, Lent is generally so...well, serious.  People use the time for preparation, contemplation and repentance, for trying to undertake new spiritual disciplines.  It's often a time for fasting, or at least for giving up chocolate.  Happy?  It sounded strange to the ear.

But on further reflection, I could not think of a better sentiment.  When we recognize bad characteristics in our personalities, we are embarrassed and frustrated.  Why have we not been able to change?  This season is an opportunity to abandon self-indulgence and self-destructive behaviors, and to start over.  We are reminded at Lent that Christ offers us new life, an abundant life that can be free from all of that baggage, guilt and self-loathing we have been carrying.  We do not have to look in the mirror in despair.  We can be free!  That should be a cause for celebration!

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Year!

This has been a really special Christmas season.  All the special foods and events have called to mind so many years of great memories.  A light covering of snow fell on Christmas Eve, as if ordered up by a Hollywood set designer.  With beautiful music in the air, candles lighting the church, and family members and friends all gathered around, it is hard not to feel God's presence and love.

But now it is January, and the temperatures have dropped precipitously.  The grey sky dampens all energy during the short winter days, and even ordinary work is hard to finish.  We just want to go back to our regular routines.

But this is not a time for business as usual.  Christ is in the world, and we are called to be changed.  Now is the time for making big plans, engaging in new projects, and reaching out in love to those who have been ignored.  New Year's resolutions are a good way to get going, provided that we take them seriously, and undertake to do something of real value.  Like shepherds who have heard angels overhead, we need to wake up from winter laziness and charge into the world full of hope.  Like wise men avoiding King Herod, we need to be willing to head out from seeing the newborn baby by a new and unknown route.  We can get ready by picking up a Bible and reading the old stories with fresh eyes.  We can get ready by getting back to church, and by making friends with people we haven't paid attention to.  We can get ready by volunteering for missions we have held back from trying.  We can build up habits of generosity by giving unexpectedly.  New life is right here, and right now.  Happy New Year!